Dublin Bus, Irish Rail to sue NBRU over ‘wildcat’ strike

Companies insist they will take legal action to prevent major traffic disruption in future

Alan Dardis and Pat Doyle during secondary picketing relating to the Bus Éireann strike at Conyngham Rd Dublin Bus depot on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Alan Dardis and Pat Doyle during secondary picketing relating to the Bus Éireann strike at Conyngham Rd Dublin Bus depot on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Dublin Bus and Irish Rail have told the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) they are taking legal action to recoup lost income as a result of yesterday’s “wildcat” strike action.

Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Dart services were seriously affected yesterday morning following pickets at stations by striking Bus Éireann staff.

Almost all Dart, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail services were cancelled due to the picketing, which came a week into a strike by 2,600 Bus Éireann staff over company plans to introduce new cost-saving measures without agreement in an effort to improve the company’s finances.

While the NBRU insists it did not know in advance of the secondary pickets, which caused major transport disruption in Dublin and elsewhere yesterday morning, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail say they do not believe the union’s claims.

They say it is “clear” that, despite the denials, the secondary strikes were organised by the NBRU and insist they will take legal action to prevent similar action in future.

The companies sent the legal notice last night by email “signalling” their intention to take proceedings against the union for losses incurred, which the companies estimate run into the “hundreds of thousands” of euro.

“It is clear that having regard to the manner in which this activity was co-ordinated, and having regard to the change in picketing activity, that this unlawful activity was organised by your union, its officials and members,” the letter says.

‘Entirely unlawful’

“This conduct of the picketers is entirely unlawful and we now demand from you an immediate undertaking that your union, its officers and picketers will not engage in, organise or support unlawful picketing of our clients’ premises.”

A source said both Irish Rail and Dublin Bus “will take all steps necessary to protect [our] interests including applying for injunctive relief”.

It was also claimed recent warnings from union officials that the dispute at Bus Éireann could spread to Irish Rail and Dublin Bus were further indications of the NBRU’s involvement.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said passengers were being seriously discommoded by a “spillover of unofficial protest”.

Mr Ross said the actions of secondary strikers had been widely condemned and said it was “not part of the fair conduct of strikes”.

He said, however, that it made him more determined not to intervene in the dispute, saying he would not be intimidated into doing so.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on both sides in the dispute to go back to the Workplace Relations Commission.

“The unions and management have both indicated there are issues about efficiencies that need to be discussed in respect of the Expressway service, which is the commercial arm which cannot be subsidised and which needs to be addressed, and that is the root cause of this particular problem, and I do hope that both sides will get back to the Workplace Relations Commission,” Mr Kenny said.

Fianna Fáil spokesman Robert Troy said while the wildcat strikes could not be condoned, Mr Ross needed to demonstrate he was not just a commentator and called on the Minister to initiate talks.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar told RTÉ that Bus Éireann was an important but not essential company, since most of what it did could be replaced by private companies.

Later, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said what Mr Ross and Mr Varadkar needed “to take account of is the service Bus Éireann provides for our citizens along non-profit-making routes where private operators will not go”.

“Are these people to be sacrificed for the Government’s privatisation agenda?” she asked.